When the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020) was in the planning phase, the ambition was that not only EU institutions and other EU bodies would be a part of the consultation. This kind of political agenda should gain approval at the grass-root level in the spirit of the new Lisbon Treaty. This did not happen and now the pattern seems to repeat itself when the member states are forming their National Reform Programmes (NRP). Sweden is not an exception and the local and regional authorities are forced to act on their own.
In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the draft legislation implementing the strategy should be fully compliant with the conditions outlined in the new protocol on subsidiarity. Does EU2020 go far enough in mobilising the driving forces of the society? Due to the sudden economic crisis, the current strategy might now be more realistic than the original from 2009 as it has more focus on the businesses, citizens and regions in EU. But this was not a result of a consultation with these organisations. Maybe it was just because of the rapid crisis combat on the EU level that the role of these crucial players in the society did not get a real opportunity to influence the growth agenda.
This pattern has repeated itself in most of the member countries when they have been figuring out their NRPs and Sweden is not an exception. The local and regional authorities have found it hard in taking an active part in framing the NRPs and even the flagship initiatives. In many countries the regions are the main players in the field of economic policy but in Sweden this has traditionally been a task for the national level and when it comes to research and innovation, the international companies have had a crucial role. Ericsson, Volvo, Astra Zeneca, Volvo PV and Scania are just some examples. Maybe this had been a natural way to exclude the regional and local authorities from the forming of the NRP.
The objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth reflect the problems and concerns of local and regional authorities. This has lead to actions on regional and local levels even though the NRPs are not ready yet. The municipalities, as even the regional organisations, have been forced to act on their own to be able to be sure that there is some space for EU2020 measures in their annual budgets. In Stockholm area, the municipalities of Södertälje, Solna and Östhammar are some examples of local authorities already planning their activities in accordance of EU2020. Two Swedish regions do even participate in the Interreg IV C project EU2020 going local.
The links between EU2020, cohesion policy and the future EU budget are crucial. The Swedish government has been eager to cut the new EU multi annual budget and last autumn this seemed to apply even for the most important tool for the regions to act in accordance of the EU2020 objectives – the structural funds. Now the government seems to have changed its mind but nothing is sure yet. At the same time, EU2020 is already going local in Sweden by non-CO2 greenhouse gas – grass-root power.